CLARETS kits have proved a huge hit with hundreds of youngsters in Uganda whose lives have been shattered by war.
The famous Claret and Blue Burnley FC strips were distributed to children from the formerly conflict-stricken country by two Burnley headteachers.
Julie Bradley and Dawn Forshaw, respectively at Padiham St Leonard’s and Wellfield Methodist & Anglican Church schools, have been visiting the African nation to work with schools to develop the curriculum and improve the skills of young pupils.
Working in schools in the north Ugandan village of Parabong, Julie and Dawn have also been sharing the principles of the Pop Up Farm project which has seen great success in 35 Burnley primaries.
On behalf of Burnley FC’s community scheme, the pair have gifted almost 200 replica Clarets kits to schoolchildren, a local football team and even women’s netball team.
Speaking from Uganda, Julie said: “We had a preconceived idea of what we were going to find, but it didn’t prepare us for the reality.
“We asked our Ugandan friends what we should share with you to illustrate the problems they are facing.
“They were unanimous in saying it is abduction during the 20-year war, that ended only two years ago, that underpins the ongoing problems in Northern Uganda.
“Millions were abducted and most are still missing, resulting in many orphans, and parents still waiting for their children to return.
“We drove for nine hours and met the child mothers – young girls abducted and raped, who escaped but were unable to return to their homes for a variety of reasons. They are now trying to rebuild their lives for themselves and their children.”
The women formed a football team which trains every week and now plays in Burnley kit.
Julie and Dawn met children whose lives had been touched by the atrocities of war at Parabong Primary School, which has 1,342 pupils and just 19 staff.
Julie said: “We walked around the stark, hot classrooms, each containing more than 100 pupils, yet no resources, and you could see the haunted expressions on most of the children’s faces.
“We were told horrific stories while we were there, too upsetting to share with you, but nonetheless helped us to understand the challenges they faced.
“These incredibly resilient and hard-working people are determined to rebuild their lives. They do need help though, and we are adamant we will support them.”
Jonathan Sibley, chief executive of Burnley FC’s Programme for Education, Sport and Society, hopes to continue the links with Uganda, which could see more kit and even football coaches sent over.
He said: “It is really positive. We hope it continues to grow.
“We are looking at working with partners already delivering football in Uganda and help with coaching, education, establishing leagues in the north and working with disabled groups.”